MOOC Completion Rates

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last posted Jan. 7, 2015, 8:04 a.m.
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A lot has been made of MOOC Completion Rates (and how low they are).

I've completed 10 MOOCs and probably started four or five times that. For a given course, the average completion rates are much lower: often low single digit percentages.


Critics of MOOCs on this basis, however, miss the point.

MOOCs register students at a much higher point in the funnel than most other course delivery approaches.


Enrolling in a MOOC isn't like enrolling in a college course, it's like looking at the course catalog and thinking a course might be interesting.


No one would measure "book completion" by how many people who "Looked Inside" a book on Amazon read the entire book.


I frequently drop out of MOOCs because:

  1. it wasn't the right level (too easy or too hard)
  2. I didn't like the style of it
  3. I didn't have the time to put into it
  4. there were too many other interesting MOOCs competing for my time

MOOCs let me evaluate this after I've enrolled (and been counted as a enrollment statistic).


I'm currently "enrolled" in eight courses on edX alone that start in the next couple of months.

I have no intention of doing all eight. I'd struggle to manage three at a time.

But the nature of MOOCs lets me try them all before I narrow down the two or three I want to focus on.


If I pick two MOOCs of the eight to continue with, saying I have a 25% completion rate is nonsense.


Nat makes a great point. There are courses which I've chosen not to do the exercises on but which I just watched the lectures for (or plan to, so have kept enrolled even though course is finished and I've "failed").